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Houston’s roaming tiger problem could be solved with new bills

February 13, 2019

A Houston state Senator introduced legislation on Feb. 5 that would make it illegal to own tigers as pets.

Less than a week later, on Feb. 11, a woman found a caged tiger in a vacant Houston home, marking the second time since 2016 an apparent pet tiger has popped up unexpectedly in Houston or its suburbs.

“I’m not lying,” the woman told a confused 311 dispatcher, according to a tape of the call released by officials.

“I don’t know how he got it in there,” she said. “It’s not a baby tiger. It’s pretty big.”

“How do you even get a tiger?” the dispatcher wondered.

Under current Texas law, it’s not illegal to own a tiger as a pet, though there are a number of requirements, including state-issued permits and insurance.

In 2016, a young female tiger wearing a leash was found wandering in a neighborhood in Conroe. It jumped up and licked the face of a resident who approached it.

Senate Bill 641 by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and House Bill 1268 by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, would change that by making it illegal to own tigers and other “dangerous wild animals” such as chimpanzees, gorillas, leopards and lions, punishable by up to year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The bill makes exceptions for wildlife sanctuaries, research facilities and individuals with certain agriculture licenses.

Lawmakers from Houston expressed support for the legislation after the latest tiger incident.

“A tiger was found in my #SD6 neighborhood of Manchester,” said state Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, in a tweet Tuesday. “We need further legislation against wild animal possession to protect both the animals & our citizens.”

If the legislation passes, Texans who already lawfully own tigers or other dangerous wild animals would be allowed to keep them.

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